SOUTH PORTLAND – More than 12 years ago, Ben Hammond watched as Anthony Simpson buzzed through the hallways of Greater Portland Christian School.

He watched as Simpson talked nonstop to classmates and friends. When he played soccer, Simpson put all his energy into the time he spent on the field. Actually, he put all his energy into whatever he did.

Simpson’s energy was constant and Hammond bestowed a nickname upon Simpson, his classmate who also became his teammate.

“All through the years we’ve gone to school together, I’ve called him the Energizer Bunny,” Hammond said. “He has so much energy, and he’s always putting hard work into whatever he does.”

That trait continues.

Simpson, a senior forward on the Greater Portland Christian boys’ soccer team, scored his 30th goal in the Lions’ final game of the regular season Monday, a 2-2 tie at Islesboro.

The tie helped the Lions (6-6-1) qualify fourth for the Western Class D playoffs and earn a quarterfinal Wednesday against fifth-ranked Buckfield (7-4-1) at Wainwright Field in South Portland.

“We haven’t had a single game with everyone due to all of our injuries, and we’ve been the strongest we have been right now,” Simpson said. “This season’s been up and down. We won the games we needed to win to make the playoffs, and that’s what we wanted to do. Now it’s just one game at a time.”

Simpson’s goal was to help his team succeed and qualify for the playoffs, but he set a personal goal.

“I just wanted to put the ball in the net and help the team as much as I can,” said Simpson, a resident of Porter who commutes an hour each way to attend Greater Portland Christian.

“There weren’t many personal goals, other than putting the ball in the net. I wanted to see the team succeed and get to the playoffs.”

Simpson has more than doubled his goal-scoring output from last season, when he scored 13 goals.

It’s a combination of several factors, starting with Simpson’s tireless work ethic.

“If he steps on the field, for practice or for a game, he’s going 100 percent,” GPCS Coach Chris Spaulding said. “There is no half-speed for Anthony.”

Simpson, Spaulding said, has set an example for teammates.

In fact, Spaulding has designated two postpractice awards — the captain’s award, given to a player who brings intangible aspects such as encouragement and intelligence to each practice, and one Spaulding calls the “Anthony Award.”

It’s named for Simpson and is given to the player who has the strongest work ethic of the day.

Simpson attributes his success to that work ethic. What Simpson reaps, he wants to sow.

“If it wasn’t for working hard, I don’t think I’d have 30 goals,” Simpson said. “I probably wouldn’t have 15. But it’s fun, and I like being able to help keep the team’s intensity up.”

Hammond recalled all the running around that Simpson did while he was playing at center midfield for the first half of last season.

At the time, it was a perfect way for Simpson to exert some of that energy.

“Playing at midfield, you’re running around all the time and that takes a lot of energy,” Hammond said.

“He got to save some of that energy when he got moved to forward, but when he plays, he’s very fast. He books it.”

Last week, a day after the Lions qualified for the regional playoffs, Greater Portland Christian practiced with its full lineup for the first time this season after going through a rash of injuries.

Behind the two-story school on Broadway in South Portland, Simpson practiced with his teammates, chattering and zipping through cones lined up across the field.

“Anthony never comes to practice and just goes through the motions,” Spaulding said. “He plays in practice like he’s playing for a championship. That ability gives him the ability to be one of the best competitors out there.”

 

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at: [email protected]